A Chinese probe sent to the moon to bring back the first lunar sample in four decades has successfully landed, according to the Beijing Space Agency.
China has invested billions in its military-led space program, hoping to build a crew space station by 2022 and eventually send humans to the moon.
The latest mission aims to collect lunar rocks and soil for scientists to learn about the moon’s origin, structure, and volcanic activity.
The Chang-5 spacecraft, named after China’s moon goddess, reached the moon late Tuesday night, state media agency Xinhua reported, citing China’s national space administration.
If the return journey is successful, China will be only the third country to recover samples from the moon, following the US and Soviet Union in the 60s and 70s.
Xinhua said it entered lunar orbit after a 112-hour journey from Earth on Saturday, after a rocket was launched into space from Hainan province last week.
It is to collect 2 kg (4.5 lb) of surface material in a previously undiscovered area known as the Oceanas Procelararam (Storm Ocean), according to the journal Nature Science.
The collection will be during a lunar day – equivalent to about 14 Earth days.
The US space agency NASA said its China samples this month would be returned to Earth this month in a program capsule for landing in northern China’s Inner Mongolia region.
The mission is technically challenging and involves a number of innovations that were not seen during previous attempts to collect lunar rocks, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics researcher Jonathan McDowell said last month.
China’s “space dream” plan under President Xi Jinping, as he puts it, has gone into overdrive.
The new superpowers have been trying to reconcile their space milestones with the United States and Russia for many years.
A Chinese moon rover landed on the very edge of the moon in January 2017, raising Beijing’s ambition to become a space superpower.
The latest investigation is among a number of ambitious goals set by Beijing, including the creation of a powerful rocket capable of delivering heavier payloads than a lunar base capable of managing NASA and the private rocket agency SpaceX and a permanently built space center.
Chinese astronauts and scientists have also discussed crew missions to Mars.